For now, the subject of first baseman Albert Pujols' contract extension won't be debated officially until after the end of the season. The Feb. 16 deadline for concluding negotiations between Pujols' camp and the Cardinals came and went. Pujols came to camp -- and said he wanted to stay, all things willing.
"I want to be a Cardinal forever. That's my goal," said Pujols, who could be a free agent for the first time in his 11-season career when this season is over. The common palaver was that Pujols and agent Dan Lozano had been asking for a 10-year, $300 million deal, but a seemingly amused Pujols said,
"You (writers) don't have any clue. You're way off about the numbers you're throwing out there."
Pujols echoed the positive theme that chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and general manager John Mozeliak offered during a news conference the day before -- that no bridges had been burned.
"I have so much respect for this organization," said Pujols. "They gave me the opportunity to play 11 years ago. No matter what went down because of the deadline, it doesn't mean I don't want to be a Cardinal.
"Do I wish that something had been done and we'd be talking about something different? Yes. I wish, but that's not the case. But that isn't going to change any relationships that I have with this organization or with the owner or with (Mozeliak). It's the way it goes. That's how business goes."
The Cardinals apparently explored in their offer to Pujols the chance for Pujols to have a stake in the team. DeWitt said only that the club looked at "different avenues."
Pujols said, "When the time comes, the fans are going to understand that this is business and that there are two sides. We tried to get together and it didn't happen, and we're trying to work it out in the offseason, hopefully."
--RHP Chris Carpenter offered some advice to young RHP Shelby Miller, the club's top draft pick in 2009. Carpenter thought that the hard-throwing Miller was positioning his hands so that he was tipping his fastball and changeup. "It was something that I saw, so I mentioned it. Why not help him? That's what we're all here for -- to help each other out. He's probably going to take my job," said the 35-year-old Carpenter.
--Pitching coach Dave Duncan, who
occasionally has been doubtful about some of the young arms in the Cardinals'
system, likes what he has seen in this camp. Citing that he had been impressed
by RHPs P.J. Walters, Brandon Dickson, Adam Reifer and Shelby Miller, among
--Former Cardinals Gold Glove C Mike Matheny is helping the catchers in camp and will do so throughout the system during the season. It seems that the highly regarded Matheny someday would like to manage or coach on a full-time basis, but he has five children between the ages of 10 and 16 and he said, "To do it on an everyday basis doesn't make sense right now."
--OF Jim Edmonds, signed to a
non-roster contract, announced his retirement when his right Achilles' tendon,
injured last season, didn't heal.
--Manager Tony La Russa said he thought the players' association had been exerting some pressure, seen or unseen, on 1B Albert Pujols to get a record-setting deal. "His representatives are getting beat up by the union," said La Russa. To this, Michael Weiner, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players' Association, said, "I have a lot of respect for Tony. But it's just completely wrong that there has been pressure applied here."
BY THE NUMBERS: 32 -- Age of non-roster LH reliever Raul Valdes when he made his major league debut last year with the New York Mets.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I had dinner with Albert last night, and he guaranteed me he wanted to end his career with the Cardinals. Before you pull a hamstring running to cover that, that's Albert 'Red' Schoendienst." -- Manager Tony La Russa, speaking to reporters about Albert Pujols' contract status.
The Cardinals entered the offseason with one of the best core groups in baseball: 1B Albert Pujols, LF Matt Holliday, RHPs Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and Gold Glove C Yadier Molina. They have tried to upgrade the supporting cast, particularly by signing RF Lance Berkman.
ARRIVALS: C Gerald Laird (free agent from Tigers), RF Lance Berkman (free agent from Yankees), LHP Brian Tallet (free agent from Blue Jays), SS Ryan Theriot (trade with Dodgers), RHP Miguel Batista (free agent from Nationals), RHP Ian Snell (free agent from Mariners), INF Ramon Vazquez (minor league free agent from Astros), INF Nick Punto (free agent from Twins).
DEPARTURES: INF Brendan Ryan (traded to Mariners), LHP Dennys Reyes (free agent, signed with Phillies), RHP Blake Hawksworth (traded to Dodgers), RHP Brad Penny (free agent, signed with Tigers), RHP Jeff Suppan (free agent, signed minor league contract with Giants), RHP Mike MacDougal (free agent, signed minor league deal with Dodgers), 3B Pedro Feliz (free agent, signed minor league deal with Royals), OF Randy Winn (free agent, signed minor league deal with Orioles), LHP Dennys Reyes (free agent, signed minor league deal with Red Sox), INF Aaron Miles (free agent, signed minor league deal with Dodgers).
RHP Adam Wainwright
RHP Chris Carpenter
LHP Jaime Garcia
RHP Jake Westbrook
RHP Kyle Lohse
The Cardinals are as set with their rotation as they've been in years -- that is, if Lohse can remain healthy. Lohse, plagued mostly by forearm problems, has won just 10 games the last two seasons after winning 15 in 2008. Depth behind the top five is sketchy.
RHP Ryan Franklin (closer)
RHP Mitchell Boggs
RHP Jason Motte
RHP Kyle McClellan
RHP Miguel Batista
RHP Fernando Salas
LHP Trever Miller
LHP Brian Tallet
Little change in the makeup of a bullpen that was successful far more often than not last year. Might be a bit weak on the left side, with Miller and Tallet coming off subpar seasons, but it's very deep right-handed. Boggs and Motte rank as closer candidates if veteran Franklin falters.
1. 2B Skip Schumaker
2. CF Colby Rasmus
3. 1B Albert Pujols
4. LF Matt Holliday
5. RF Lance Berkman
6. C Yadier Molina
7. 3B David Freese
8. SS Ryan Theriot
The leadoff spot is up for grabs between Schumaker and newcomer Theriot, and it might be that Theriot will lead off against left-handers and Schumaker will hit first against right-handers. Berkman is slotted fifth for now but could move to second if Rasmus is deemed capable of protecting Pujols and Holliday.
TOP ROOKIES: Technically not a
rookie -- he missed by a few days -- Allen Craig, the most notable power hitter
in the minor league system, ostensibly is a first-year player. Craig was
productive last season at the big-league level when he got to play four or five
games in a row, but he had a difficult time coming off the bench as a pinch
hitter or spot player, which likely will be his lot this year, too, if he makes
the club. The top pitching prospect probably is RHP Lance Lynn, a 13-game winner
at Class AAA Memphis. INF Daniel Descalso was impressive at third base in a late
season trial but probably is ticketed for
--No significant injuries.